When I first started writing Of Sand and Malice Made, I didn’t have a small novel in mind, or even a set of interconnected novellas. It began only with a single story, “Irindai”, which eventually sold to Ragnarok Publications for their Blackguards anthology. But as I developed that first story I knew it wouldn’t be the last in the series. I started having more and more thoughts about where I could take the story’s primary mover, a djinni-like creature name Rümayesh. I thought more about the sons of the trickster god that were working against her. I thought more about the new character, Brama, a two-bit thief who got pulled into something much larger and more dangerous than he ever expected. And I thought about what it could all mean for the heroine of the series, Çeda.
Part of this is just the urge to tell more about the characters you’ve spent so much time creating and (one presumes) has come to like (or at least become intrigued by). But another part is a thing that’s been growing in me more over the past several books: the urge to weave stories so that they’re never stand-alone; they always connect to other parts of the tale. And by “tale” I mean the larger tapestry of The Song of the Shattered Sands. I liked the characters in Sand & Malice enough that I wanted to weave them into Book Two, With Blood Upon the Sand, and see where they went. And indeed I have done and will continue to do so in Book Three and beyond. But I don’t want to talk about those characters, per se, but rather the driving force that made me want to expand their tales in the first place.
You see, the series has a lot to do with blood. Some of this is abstract. The main character, Çeda, loses her mother when she’s young. She’s always yearned to know more about her mother’s past and the family she knows is out there but never came to know because her mother was so tight-lipped about them. She also comes to embrace those closest to her as her own blood: her best friend, Emre, old Ibrahim the storyteller, even Dardzada, her cruel foster father. The notion of family and blood goes well beyond her immediate connections as she learns more about the secrets the Twelve Kings of Sharakhai are trying to keep hidden, secrets her mother was trying to uncover.
In many cases, however, the notion of blood is quite literal. It drives much of the magic of this world. And it has to do with the gods and how their actions have led Sharakhai to the state it’s in now. The elder gods created the world. They created the younger gods as well. And eventually they created woman and mankind. In so doing, they granted mortals some of their own blood — a breath of life they reserved for man and withheld from the younger gods. Who can say why they did this? There’s no way to ask them, for shortly after creating man, they left this world for another, leaving everything else behind, including the younger gods.
The younger gods, now the only true deities left in the world, yearn for the touch of their creators. Some became despondent. Others angry. Particularly Goezhen, the god of chaos, who gave birth to many new creatures in the world. These were nearly all twisted creatures, envious of humanity, often feeding on them to quench the hunger given them by Goezhen himself. The ehrekh were one of his last creations, and Rümayesh, the antagonist we meet in Of Sand and Malice Made, is one of them.
The deepening of this connection — from elder gods to younger gods to creatures to mortals — is one that I was eager to expand on. It’s already advising me on how the series as a whole is going to go.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at how much this book is influencing the series. It’s one of the things I’m most eager to explore of late, not merely character and plot and magic, but how the world holds itself together. I think it deepens the tale tremendously.
As you read Sand & Malice and the Shattered Sands series, it is my sincere hope that you agree.
Of Sand and Malice Made is published in the UK by Gollancz, and in the US by DAW Books. Twelve Kings is also published by Gollancz in the UK, and DAW Books in the US (as Twelve Kings of Sharakai). The third book, Blood Upon the Sand, is due to be published in February 2017.